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Cuba, Once Again in the Streets

Despite government arrests and threats, the citizens’ demands will continue, and more slogans will appear daily, since there are new reasons to shout

Tired of living in misery and backwardness, thousands of Cubans went out onto the streets in 2021 and again in 2024 to call for an end to the system that’s violating their freedoms. Photo from July 11, 2021: Confidencial / EFE

Camila Rodríguez

5 de abril 2024


 “Hello, they took my son. I don’t know what to do.” This is one of the messages that regularly reach the WhatsApp of Justicia 11J, a program of Research and Advocacy Initiative A.C., a Civil Society Organization specialized in human rights. It is a message that, with very few words, reflects the fear and desperation in the face of the arbitrary detentions that occur in Cuba in connection with peaceful demonstrations in public spaces.

This March, another wave of protests has been unleashed in the country. The month has not yet ended, and at least 40 protests of different magnitude and type of action have already taken place. Twenty-four municipalities in 12 provinces have seen or heard the social, economic, and political discontent of citizens who no longer can or want to put up with the dictatorship. 

The protests in Bayamo (Granma), Carreta del Morro, in the District and El Cobre (Santiago de Cuba) and Santa Marta (Matanzas), on March 17 and 18, are just the mediatized peaks of protest expressions since weeks ago that have also left a toll in victims. People have shouted “Food and medicine”, “We are hungry”, that the electric power service be restored — again in crisis —, and also, they have asked for an end to the root of the evil. Slogans of “Freedom”, “Homeland and Life”, “Down with the dictatorship”, “Down with communism” and “Down with Diaz-Canel” have been heard.

In contrast to the numerous reports of detentions received by Justicia 11J from family members of protesters from the July 2021 social outburst and the subsequent 2022 protest peaks, there have been few individuals who have shared information about short-term forced disappearances and arbitrary detentions in connection with the March demonstrations. Although we have received reports of dozens of people who may now be behind bars in the centers of instruction, or in the prisons themselves, as of Monday morning, Justice 11J has only been able to identify 18 detainees while awaiting the provisional conclusions of the Prosecutor’s Office, which will almost certainly not dismiss the cases.

At the same time, we know of demonstrators whose freedom, after hours or days of detention, has cost them thousands of pesos, paid to the state as fines, for alleged acts of “public disorder”.

These days, everything is very uncertain in the country. Although during the days of protests, the regime reported an alleged recovery of energy services and the forthcoming distribution of standard food products to placate a desperate citizenry, the truth is that it has no way of sustaining its declarations. Citizen claims and arrests will continue, and more slogans will appear. Indeed, every day there are more reasons to shout that are recycled. The weekend rains in Havana have left at least 200 landslides, leaving dozens of families homeless.

Meanwhile, the European Union, which maintains a Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement with Cuba, which was evaluated as positive at the end of 2023 during the official visit to Havana of the High Representative for Human Rights Mr. Eamon Gilmore, has not expressed itself on the repressive events in the country, even when the civil society continually calls its attention and asks for the condemnation of the regime. Few democratic countries have supported the causes of the Cuban people in the streets again, just a few days after the state rejected 28 recommendations related precisely to the rights to freedom of expression and association, in the recently concluded Fourth cycle of the Universal Periodic Review of Cuba.

Once again, it is urgent to ask the European Union to implement concrete actions to support Cuban citizens and to accompany the victims of repression and their families. Moreover, it is crucial to put an end to an intergovernmental agreement that has only legitimized a regime that no longer allows us to live with dignity. 

It is also imperative that the international community follow up on events in Cuba, and promptly denounce the constant violations of human rights, linked to the dictatorial nature and the absence of civic space in the country. The U.S. embargo is neither the first nor the fundamental cause of the shortages in Cuba, but rather the lack of freedoms and the abysmal administration of all public goods for more than six decades. Finally, the embargo is not the excuse for the violations of elementary rights, the existence of people deprived of liberty for political reasons, the repression, and harassment against dissident voices, the denial of access to politicized trials and prisons, and the development of undemocratic elections.

While you read this text, many Cubans remain without electricity in Cuba. Who knows if in the evening, on the television news, some official will allude to the shortages and lack of resources. Definitely, they will not mention the means that were allocated to monitor the networks and maintain the police apparatus that, just a few days ago detained Victor Manuel Hidalgo Cabrales, who only wrote on his Facebook profile: “Hey! What about Las Tunas? They put it 4 and take away 5 and 6. Are we going to stay like this?”.

*The original version of this text was published in Altavoz, the newsletter of the international organization Civil Rights Defenders. The number of people detained has been updated for this publication.

This article was published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by Havana Times. To get the most relevant news from our English coverage delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe to The Dispatch.


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Camila Rodríguez

Camila Rodríguez

Investigadora y defensora de derechos humanos. Coordinadora general de Justicia 11J, grupo de trabajo sobre detenciones por motivos políticos en Cuba. Maestranda en Estudios Interdisciplinarios sobre Cuba, América Latina y el Caribe.